Music: our best exercise buddy

Have you ever considered who your favorite exercise buddy is? Who is the special one that keeps you excited and motived during a workout?  If you have started thinking about a friend, boyfriend or girlfriend you are completely in the dark. You should start thinking of something that is more under your control. Something that you can create, put into a different order, and change the entire rhythm based on your mood. Music has become our best buddy to exercise with. Nowadays, most of the exercisers use small, weightless, fancy mp3 devices during their workouts. Music follows us during our introvert long outdoor runs and even in any overcrowded gym environment. Sometimes it’s even funny to observe a bunch of people exercising in the same room moving and coordinating differently despite the overall loud rhythmical music. If you take a closer look, you can observe that each of them is wearing a headset and uses an mp3 player, which probably is tuned to a complete different music genre. Therefore, it seems that music plays an important role in our exercise habits. But the question is, which are the elements that make music so unique and our best companion during our exercise sessions?

Several years of research have revealed some important elements of music that could possible influence our exercise habits and performances.  We all have the tendency to move with synchronous sounds (e.g. tapping our finger with the music´s beat). Music also has the tendency to increase arousal by increasing our desire to move more than to sit. In addition, music has the power to distract us from discomfort that might be related to exercise. Overall, synchronous music has been found to boost exercise intensity (i.e. faster beat =higher exercise intensity). There is also a strong relationship between arousal and music tempo, since increased arousal related to the beat of the music makes performing intense exercise boosts seem less stressful.

In a recent study, Karageorghis et al (2009) examined the impact of motivational music and oudeterous (neutral in terms of motivational qualities) music on an endurance treadmill-walking task. The participants walked to exhaustion, starting at 75% maximal heart rate reserve, under conditions of motivational synchronous music, oudeterous synchronous music, and a no-music control. The results indicated that endurance was increased in both music conditions and that motivational music had a greater ergogenic effect than did oudeterous music. In their final conclusion, the authors highlighted that the results indicated that motivational synchronous music can elicit an ergogenic effect and enhance in-task affect during an exhaustive endurance task.

One year later, Nakamura et al (2010) explored the effects of preferred and non-preferred music on exercise distance, Heart Rate (HR), and Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) during a continuous cycling exercise performed at high intensity. In their conclusion the authors emphasized the importance of listening to preferred music during exercise. More specific, they stated that listening to preferred music during continuous cycling exercise at high intensity can increase the exercise distance, Individuals listening to non-preferred music can even perceive more discomfort caused by the exercise.

Music during exercise has a direct impact not only on motivation, endurance and discomfort feelings but also on our coordination skills. Bernatzky et al (2004) explored the impact of stimulating music on motor coordination in patients afflicted with Morbus Parkinson. Their study provided support of the idea that specific types of music can improve the precision of arm and finger movements.

Based on the aforementioned scientific observations, we can conclude that music can become a motivation tool for the exerciser. It can enhance the relaxation response, which can assist someone to push harder during some unwanted feeling during an exercise session. In other words, music can diminish the feeling of fatigue allowing the exerciser to work out for longer periods of time. And, lastly, the rhythms of music can improve motor coordination, something that has a direct effect on the reduction of injury incidents. My personal and scientific suggestion to you is: put some athletics clothes on, tie your sneakers and grab your mp3 player. Find a nice route and start exploring running listening to your favorite music. Start exercising with music, your best buddy, to improve your fitness level and enjoying exercising.

Useful Tip

How to choose the best exercise music
Find the music that you like. Find the songs that have a distinct rhythm and appropriate tempo/beats per minutes (bpm). The chosen song’s bpm should correspond to the heart rate you’d hope to have during the workout.
 Power walkingApprox. 137-139bpm  Cycling Approx. 135-170  Running Approx. 155-175bpm

About Anastasios Rodis

Anastasios Rodis is an exercise physiologist at Aspetar Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Hospital in Qatar. Anastasios holds a European Masters in Sport and Exercise Psychology (Lund Universitet, Sweden/Leipzig, Germany). He has also completed an M.Sc in Applied exercise physiology (University of Bangor, wales, UK) and a B.Sc in Sport Sciences (University of Portsmouth, UK). Anastasios has 15 years of athletic history in track and field. He has worked as a sport psychologist with elite Swedish swimmers. He has also efficiently cooperated as an exercise physiologist with Panathinaikos football club and worked with elite athletic teams, individual athletes as well as patients with musculoskeletal injuries. His main focus is the promotion of exercise and healthy lifestyle by using and combining both physical and mental techniques.
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2 Responses to Music: our best exercise buddy

  1. Pingback: Should I keep exercising alone? | all about performance

  2. Great info thank you for sharing.

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